Green Building Consulting

Net Zero-High Performance
Home Consulting

If you’re a home owner, home buyer, builder, architect or contractor looking to create a high performance/net zero home, I can help.

Are you looking to be green energy-wise and save money on your energy bills? Let me share my practical and cost-effective approach to building homes. With more than a decade of experience, I have developed a process we can apply to an existing home.  In this process, we retrofit the house to create a home that is not only efficient, but also one that has great indoor air quality, is comfortable to live in, and is durable.

GREEN BUILDING EXPERIENCE

I’ve spent the last decade taking existing properties and crafting a high performance retrofit and building new highly-efficient homes. Likewise, in the last five years, I have focused on building high performance spec homes that are either Net-Zero or Net-Zero-Ready. 

Let me put my skills to work for you, and share how my approach can have a positive impact on your project. If you have a new build or a renovation that you would like to make high performance, Contact Me First to help. 

New Lot Purchase Evaluation

Whether you are new to buying vacant land, or are experienced at buying land, I can help. If you would simply like the opinion of an experience real estate broker, I can help.

Most noteworthy taught me much. I bought and sold real estate in the area for over twenty years. Because I’m familiar with the process of due diligence needed to purchase raw land, I understand the pitfalls you can encounter if your investigation is not done correctly.

BUDGETING

Need help with determining the budget for the land purchase? Because of my familiarity with current construction and entitlement costs, I can help you figure a preliminary budget that can guide you in making the decision if the project is right for you.

Don’t end up with a property that is higher in development costs than you anticipated.

REAL ESTATE AGENT

Likewise, if you don’t have a real estate agent and you want help to find that perfect piece of land, I can help locate the lot that is right for you.

What is a high performance home?

First of all, a high performance home has four characteristics that should be incorporated into the plan and design. A high performance home encompasses comfortable living spaces, provides great indoor air quality, instills durability and increases efficiency. A high performance home needs to incorporate all four of these things. Therefore, keep these goals in mind as you plan and complete your home construction or renovation project.

Air Quality

Americans spend most of their time indoors. So, why not focus on how you can improve the air quality for you and your family?

We often worry about pollution outside. But, how many of us give as much thought to the indoor air we breathe? The Environmental Protection Agency focuses concern on this topic.  See the link below to read their article about indoor air quality.

Indoor air can be significantly worse than outside air.

There are many factors that impact poor indoor air quality. As American houses are built, technology advances have made the houses tighter. With most construction, you will find stagnation and contamination in the indoor air we breathe.

Similarly, leaky duct systems and holes in the barriers between the house, attic and crawlspace introduce dirty air into the living area. Construction products and home furnishings introduce chemicals into the ambient air.

Ventilation Systems

Our new tight homes can trap the toxins inside, along with allergens that are found in the outside air. As our homes are built more tightly, (with a tight duct system), planning and proper installation produce a good ventilation system. The ventilation system brings in filtered, fresh air from outside while exhausting moist air from inside the home.

https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/inside-story-guide-indoor-air-quality

Comfort

Have you ever wondered why your house gets cold as soon as the furnace shuts off? Or have you noticed hot or cold spots in some areas of the house? This is generally the result of a poor insulation air seal that can create drafts in a home.

Heating and Cooling Systems

In looking at air quality, often a poorly designed and installed heating and cooling system is a culprit. The vast majority of home heating and cooling systems (even on up-to-date and Title 24 compliant houses) are way too big. While the installer will say the size is right, he/she is basing the size on old rules of thumb that are not based in science.

The house is heated and cooled too quickly and the mass of the house (furniture, cabinetry, etc.) never has a chance to be conditioned. This means the air around you may be 70 degrees but the couch you’re sitting on is only at 65 degrees. You will feel the 65 degree couch; you will not feel the warmer air around you, resulting in a less comfortable overall feeling.

This is why our high performance homes heat and cool extremely evenly and slowly. We allow for the mass in the house to be conditioned along with the air. The result is comfort and consistency throughout the house.

Efficiency

Your home should be energy-efficient. When we apply the technology and innovation that is available to home builders now, you will live a comfortable life. You will not have to think as often about your energy usage because you have small energy bills or no energy bills at all.

I am a firm believer in all-electric houses that are built strategically with a moderately sized PV system that offsets most of, or all of, the electrical usage. 

Durability

When your house works as a well-functioning system, it lasts longer. We pay attention to detail so the results not only make a house comfortable to live in, but also efficient, and more durable. A properly sized heating and cooling system paired with tight ductwork creates a system that lasts. They run smoothly. There is low stress on the system. The system is free from dirt and dust that wears down a typical system.

What do you like about living in a high performance home?

CLEAN AIR

The first thing we value about our new home is the clean air. We have lived in the home for more than six months and we can see the positive impact the clean air has on family that suffers from seasonal allergies. I’ve suffered from them my entire life. I have needed a combination of medications and yearly steroid injections to keep them under control. That is, until this year. For the first time I can remember, I went an entire allergy season without any allergy medications or shots. While the kids are not allergy free, they are much improved over the previous years. Our family loves the outdoors all year round. So, having our indoor air as clean and fresh as possible, is a key factor in our health and well being.

COMFORT

In addition to the improvement in air quality, another noticeable difference in our high performance home is the level of comfort we feel. We love the consistent temperature that is uniform throughout the house. In our old house, there were hot and cold spots. We do not have hot and cold spots in our new home. Instead, what we find is the house is heated and cold evenly including the furniture, walls, and other thermal mass, giving it a very pleasing, consistent feel.

LOWER ENERGY BILLS

Another key element in our new home is the the lower energy bills. The new house is sixty percent larger than the old house and the bills average 25% less per month. We keep the house at 70 degrees in the colder months and 72 to 74 in the warmer months. In the old house we monitored the thermostat much more carefully and lived with some large variations. We now have enough data to know a moderately sized PV solar array (a photovoltaic array is the complete power-generating unit) will make us Net Zero. We plan to install one in our home soon.

FRESH AIR (FLOWERS LAST LONGER)

One bonus effect of the new house is that fresh flowers last longer. This is something my wife noticed right away. She had some fresh flowers in the house and they lasted for over two weeks. I’m guessing it has to do with the combination of constant fresh air coming into the house along with a consistent temperature.

LESS DUST

Dirty air entering a house from a crawlspace or attic causes dust build up. We sealed off the attic and crawlspace in our house according to my process thus eliminating the intrusion of dusty air. 

MORE QUIET

My family hears very little outside noise and the correctly sized heat pump and ventilation system barely make a sound.

LESS FOOTPRINT

Soon we will add solar to the roof of our home, resulting in Net Zero, making the energy production of our home more than ample for our needs.

I will be getting Title 24 energy calculations on my project. Doesn’t that mean it will be efficient?

No, the Title 24 energy code, while not all bad, is not the answer. There is very little follow up to determine if the energy code is really working. Often, when there is follow up, the results are not good.  And the results are impressive. This is shown in the article linked below. As with most government bureaucracies, the energy commissions can be influenced by special interest groups.

In contrast, we monitor the homes we have built to see how they’re performing. In many instances, the energy code calls for practices that are in direct contradiction to the features that I’ve put into my homes.

Article: When Good Intentions Go Bad

Building Inspectors

The other problem is building inspectors, along with builders, are generally not interested in the energy code. I have seen very little attention paid to the energy portion of my projects by building inspectors. In addition, I have walked through countless projects from other builders that lack proper installation techniques but the inspectors allowed the projects to move forward.

The best way to achieve performance is to have clear specifications for the construction team and establish a culture of performance that everyone can get on board with.

It looks like there are a lot of energy consultants out there. Can’t I just hire one of them?

Experience is the Key

I don’t know of any energy consultants out there with the experience I have. Others may have taken all the classes, but there is no replacement for the experience that comes from building a project, monitoring the results and confirming good performance.

I have been building and retro-fitting high performance homes for over ten years now. I have seen what works and what does not work.

I’m putting solar on the house, isn’t that the most important part?

Solar is great, and I encourage it, but it is not the most important part. With solar you’re only addressing the electrical usage. However, you are not addressing the gas usage, nor are you considering the comfort and air quality issues that are typical with our housing stock.

I like to take a holistic approach to making a better performing home. Better air quality, less energy usage, and increased comfort are the goals. Then incorporate the solar.

If I have a high efficiency furnace and A/C, doesn’t that mean it will perform well?

Not at all. The efficiency rating of the unit is only telling you that piece of equipment, not about the heating and cooling system as a whole. You will find that the system only performs well under optimal conditions. If you have a poorly designed and installed system of duct work, which is very common in California, the unit does not perform at its peak performance level.

Unit Size

A high-efficiency rating also does not tell you if the system is sized correctly for the loads of your home. Oversized equipment is actually a major problem. Too much air is sent down an undersized duct system. Some of the worst performing equipment is high efficiency units that are way oversized for the duct system.

Don’t I need to expensive feature like spray foam insulation to make a high performance or net zero home? And, won’t this cost a lot more?

Not at all. Most of the materials I use on my homes are used on similar homes. The difference is in the planning and installation of the system that makes it better than in a typical home.